It was deathly quiet on the body of water. If there was any sound to be heard at all, it was - perhaps - a distant, disembodied roar of the Earth as it rotated on it's axis, the kind of sound that one can only hear when there is absolute silence. There was not a breath of wind to disrupt the surface of the ocean, thus the moonless, star lit night reflected perfectly off it, creating an illusion of infinite space. Every now and then, streaks of light streamed across the sky - meteors hitting the upper atmosphere - creating an impromptu light show of incredible intensity and brevity.
Nearby was a coast line. Rocky cliffs curved around in a wide bay that flanked the body of water, creating a sanctuary from the open sea. Towering sequoia stood upon the bluff overlooking the sea, as though in wait for the arrival of dawn. The chill night air was close to freezing, influenced in part by the air currents coming off the dense, forested, snow capped mountains inland. Atop the coastal cliffs, a ribbon of bitumen hugged the land mass, in places precariously close to the edge of the granite cliffs. It wound down in an arc identical to the coast to open out parallel to a strip beach front that was steep and surfaced with crushed shells and pebbles rather than sand.
It was perfect in it's solitude. In the depths of the night the sea, it seemed, slept.
The sea held onto it's secrets.
Below the surface, the inky blackness enveloped everything. Here, again, was a world in suspended animation - where nothingness dictated everything. There was no movement, no sound, no current, no light. It was suffocating in more ways than one.
And then from the nothingness - a flash of silver in the gloom, a submerged equivalent of a meteor streaking across the sky above. A lone bottle nosed dolphin coalesced out of the gloom, undulating languidly as it explored this region of water close to the shore. It's sleek body captured a mysterious light source that seemed to come from no-where and reflected off it's silvery gray flank. It was a mature specimen, an adult male, with a smattering of territorial spots adorning it's dorsum. To the trained eye, one could surmise that this dolphin had returned it's own waters. Indeed, the mammal had spent long months in the open sea, had traveled thousands of miles after having become lost from his pod. He was desperately lonely, pining for his own kind. So it was with a great sense of relief that he had found his way back to this stretch of coast where he had been born. He could sense his number somewhere close by.
The dolphin slowed to a stop and floated a few feet below the surface for several minutes as though in a state of suspended animation. The mammal was thoroughly exhausted and he allowed himself a few moments of pause now that he knew he was close to home. The turbulent water the dolphin had stirred up behind him and around him as he braked dissipated until the stillness returned. He drifted upward as though curious about the surface and what lay there. In the background of the brilliant star field above, the dolphin's black form stood prominent - like a shadow of Pisces.
Mere millimeters from from the meniscus, the dolphin gave an almost imperceptible flick of it's fins, holding fast before he could break the surface of the water. He wasn't yet in need of air. He began to descend once more.
In the stillness of the water he drifted down...down...so slowly and so slightly that his aerodynamics did not disturb the water around him. The dolphin closed it's eyes, relaxing into the cradle of the sea, tempted to keep falling into the blackness, so tired was he.
From somewhere far below a single bubble rose, closing in like a tiny missile on the mammal. A perfectly formed, spherical pocket of air unmolested by current or debris, ascended through the darkness, it's jewel like surface similarly capturing that mysterious light source from...somewhere..., in the same manner as the dolphin's body had.
The dolphins perfectly attuned biological sonar, that was designed to pick up on the most insignificant contact failed to detect the miniscule current disturbance from the bubble as it rose upward, ever upward towards it.
The bubble made contact with the underside of the dolphin, spreading out as it impacted silently, it's form compressed as flat as a pancake until it split in two like the nucleus of a cell. In that instant, the dolphin's eyes snapped open. As the two separate parts of the bubble rippled up both of it's flanks, the dolphin was startled by the disembodied sound of a guttural scream - a human scream - a scream of anguish that seemed to emanate from inside the air bubble itself.
As one half of the original air bubble broke free from of the hydrostatic grip of the dolphin's body, it passed before the dolphin's eye. His pupil focused on the undulating pocket of air.
Time slowed to a crawl...
A face, a human face - a man's face, his features contorted into a mask of horror screamed into the darkness around him from inside the bubble.
The dolphin flinched, panicked at what he had just witnessed. The moment was so fleeting, the moving image disappeared from his field of view so quickly, the mammal was disoriented...which only fed into his now heightened state of anxiety.
He flicked his body upward, breaking free of the darkened depths and surfaced, a large gout of water issuing forth from his blow hole. The dolphin hovered there for several minutes, the adrenaline coursing through him still, until he felt calm return. The silence of the night above soothed him.
As the dolphin drifted, his now attuned sonar suddenly alerted him to a new contact rising from below - two contacts this time.
Curiosity replaced his previously startled anxiety and the mammal hooked himself over and dove beneath the surface, honing in on the two new bogeys...
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